From Anne Murray to Serena Ryder, and from Celine Dion to Avril Lavigne, Canada boasts some of the most creative, bold, and successful female vocal artists and singer-songwriters anywhere in the world.
And this upcoming February 25, the 100-voice Peterborough Singers will celebrate the contributions of many of these distinctive Canadian voices at its first-ever Canadian Women of Song concert.
The performance will take place just days before the global celebration of International Women’s Day, which occurs on March 8.
Peterborough Singers Artistic Director Syd Birrell explains that, as he was arranging the repertoire for the choir, it became clear that the concert needed the presence of distinctively female voices not just in the choice of songs but also in their interpretation–and so he passed the baton for the performance on to his wife, accomplished classical soprano and vocal coach Pam Birrell.
With rehearsals well under way, concert director Pam Birrell says she expects the show to be “incredibly joyful.” Audience members, she said, can expect not just a radically new, distinctively choral take on many of the best-known hits by Canadian female artists, but also “a journey through time, and a celebration of Canadian women, of Canadian artists.”
The Singers also recruited the magnetic Linda Kash to serve as MC for the concert. Kash, a renowned actress who launched her career at Second City, has also guest starred in such TV series as Seinfeld, Third Rock from the Sun, Monk, Everybody Loves Raymond, Lost Girl, and The Rick Mercer Report.
Interestingly, Kash herself is the daughter of another great Canadian woman of song – the late, famed operatic contralto Maureen Forrester.
Asked what she thinks it is about Canada that has produced so many exceptional female vocalists, Birrell admits she’s not entirely sure. But, she speculates, “I think in Canada we are extremely interested in diversity and authentic voice . . . and cultural depth and creativity.”
Birrell says she vividly recalls, when she was only about five or six years old, first seeing Anne Murray on TV singing “Snowbird.” She describes being entranced by “this pretty lady who smiled all the time, with her angelic, beautiful voice.”
“I think it was the first time that I ever saw a star singing,” she adds. “And I was just struck by the beauty and magnetism and the charm and the joy of Anne Murray.”
Whittling down the vast canon of great music that was written or performed by Canadian women to suit a two-hour performance was a monumental task, says Birrell, explaining that it began with a vast spreadsheet that got progressively refined to its current crystalline form.
Among the music to be featured is that of singers as diverse as indigenous Canadian singer Susan Aglukark, punk rocker Avril Lavigne, pop artists Sarah McLachlan and Feist, country music star Shania Twain, and folk greats Joni Mitchell and Anne Murray.
The Singers have also recruited a stellar roster of solo vocalists, including Peterborough’s own Kate Suhr, aboriginal-Canadian Tonya-Leah Watts, and renowned Patsy Cline tribute singer Victoria Pearce.
A back-up band of some of Peterborough’s top musical talent will keep toes tapping and heads bopping the whole afternoon.